Archive for the ‘food’ Category

The art of selling

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

I love going to Craft Fairs and other sorts of markets. There are so many talented people around who make the most beautiful jewellery, textile art, hand knitted and crocheted items, woodwork, photography, hand crafted cards, cakes, biscuits and other foods. There is always something special to buy, and some new ideas to pick up.

But unfortunately I often find that these events aren’t as enjoyable as they should be because the majority of the craftspeople and market stallholders don’t know how to sell.

When a prospective customer approaches a stall, the seller should greet them by standing up, smiling, saying hello and having eye contact. That tells the customer that they are welcomed and that it’s ok to look at the goods, pick them up and to ask questions. Unless a customer feels welcomed and at ease touching the goods and asking questions, they will never turn from a looker into a buyer.

I cannot understand the mentality of stallholders who don’t do this. I’ve looked at so many stalls where I would have liked to have picked something up and ask a question but haven’t been able to because the stallholder has chosen not to acknowledge my presence.

When I’ve tried to catch a sellers eye, I’ve had them sitting down texting or playing with their phone, reading, deep in conversation with the person on the next stall, with their back towards me or just ignoring me.

What’s my reacton to this? I don’t pick up the item I’m interested in. I don’t ask my question. I don’t turn from a looker into a buyer and I move on to the next stall.

I’m left disappointed because I haven’t been able to buy what I was interested in, and the seller has lost a sale.

Surely it’s common courtesy to smile and say hello to someone who comes into your ’space’ even if that space is in front of a market stall. When a craftsperson has spent time, money and effort making something beautiful and gone to the trouble of paying for a market stall and travelling to the market, I would have thought that they would be really enthusiastic about talking to prospective customers. But they don’t seem to be.

Yesterday I went into a local hall where there was a Craft and Food Market. It was lunchtime and I’d been out all morning and wanted to buy something to eat.

I found a stall that was covered in delicious looking homemade cakes and scones. I love cheese scones and thought I would buy a couple. I couldn’t see a price on them, so I looked up to ask the stallholder.

She had her back to me, and was engrossed in converstion with the lady on the next stall. I waited, thinking ’she’ll notice me in a minute’. But she didn’t. I waited a bit longer thinking ‘the other lady will tell her she’s got a customer in a minute’. But she didn’t.

There was a small boy sitting behind the stall. He looked at me without smiling. I nearly asked him how much the scones were, but decided at around 5 he was too young to be expected to sell things when his mother couldn’t be bothered to. I wondered if he might tell her that she had a customer, but he didn’t.

I waited a little longer looking longingly at the scones, and then moved on disappointed and hungry. I could have interrupted her, but I would have had to shout and really why should I?

I wish people would learn how to sell if they don’t have that natural ability. It frustrates and upsets me when I see people with wonderful products that they not only don’t try to sell but actively put off their customers.

Cold weather and hot food

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Thankfully the weather has warmed up a few degrees today. Last week it was really cold.

I spent most of the week in the lounge which was a little bit warmer than the rest of the house. It was so cold in the kitchen that I couldn’t stay in it for long. I had to put on an extra jumper and quickly get some food or make a cup of tea.

It’s a good thing that since I was made redundant last December, I’ve got into cooking. I’ve been making stews and casseroles in the slow cooker, and cakes and baked apples and roast joints in the oven. I like to fill up the oven when it’s on which meant that I had extra portions to put in the freezer.

So when the kitchen was too cold to stay in, I could get some already cooked food out of the freezer, defrost and heat it in the microwave and have a nourishing, hot meal to help fend off the effects of the cold weather.

Shopping strategy

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

My favourite supermarket, the one I visit most often, has recently started giving me vouchers.

Whatever I buy, when my receipt churns out of the till, it’s joined by a £2 off voucher. I have to spend £20 in one go and it has to be used within a week.

£20 is quite a lot to spend in one go when I’m trying to watch what I spend, and it would be tempting to make up the £20 with things I’d like but don’t need.

Like most supermarkets, this one has regular special offers that change every week or two. So my new shopping strategy is to visit the shop once a week within the date of the voucher, remember to take some Bags For Life and park the car as near as I can, then I go round the shop looking at all the Buy One Get One Free, Buy One Get One Half Price, Half Price and other offers.

This way I can make up the £20 without too much difficulty, and I’m not only getting most things at offer prices, but an extra 10% as well.

I usually allow myself one treat. This week it was a punnet of grapes that had been £4 and were half price. Still a bit expensive, but I love eating them with a bit of cheese and some water biscuits.

I’m pleased with my new shopping method. All I need now is for the supermarket to carry on giving me a £2 off voucher every time I go to the till!

Tomatoes from my garden

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Tomatoes from my garden

I love growing things in the garden. It’s wonderful to step out of the kitchen, walk across the lawn and pick something fresh to eat.

The runner beans have got lots of flowers on them and some little beans are starting to form. I’m looking forward to being able to pick them.

I was given a nice healthy pot of tomatoes and have enjoyed watching them grow. Yesterday I decided that the first few were ready to pick. I cooked a meal, and then when it was ready, I went out to harvest the tomatoes, fresh and warm straight from the plant. They were delicious!

Hot Chocolate

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Hot Chocolate

I was out for the afternoon with my friend Jenny. We had called in to a local garden centre to have a look round and decided it was time for a drink.

I looked at the menu and as it was quite cold, I decided I’d have a nice hot comforting Hot Chocolate. I checked the price and saw that it was the usual sort of price for a nice big mug of steaming deliciousness.

But when it arrived, I was very disappointed. It was in a tiny cup, that wasn’t full, and the froth on the top took up half the space in the cup, leaving two mouthfuls of liquid. It was absolutely delicious, but gone so quickly!

I decided that I would say something. If a cafe is going to charge the normal price that everywhere else charges, then they should make it clear on the menu if it’s not the same size as everywhere else. So I went to the counter and explained. The young lady asked me to show her the cup and then told me that I’d been given the wrong size. It should have been a mug, but I’d been given a half size cup, so she refunded me half of the money I’d been charged.

It wasn’t until I thought about it later that I realised I should have asked for all of the money back, because I certainly didn’t get half a mugful. Oh well, you learn by experience and hindsight is a wonderful thing! I’ll be alert if I ever visit that garden centre again!

Blackberrying adventures

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

I’d like to make some blackberry wine, so I went to a lane near where I live to pick some only to find there weren’t any. I’m not sure if I was too early, too late or if someone else had got there first.

When I told my friend Jenny about it, she offered to take me somewhere she knew where she thought there would be lots of them. It was a lovely walk through fields and over stiles in beautiful countryside, and eventually we got to the blackberry bushes. But they weren’t much better! I was expecting big juicy blackberries that I could pick lots of in a short time. There were some, but not many and they were small and hard. I decided not to pick any as I thought they wouldn’t be sweet enough for making wine.

Jenny picked enough to make a blackberry pie. That didn’t take long and we were soon retracing our steps through fields and over stiles. We just had one more field to cross before we reached the lane where the car was parked, when a large chestnut horse came trotting out of a shed and headed straight for us. He wasn’t there when we went the other way.

I was getting anxious because he was so big and was coming at us so fast. I moved over and stood by the hedge hoping he’d ignore me, but he didn’t. His head was taller than me and I found him quite intimidating. I knew I had to try and keep calm and not panic. I stroked his nose and talked to him, then I decided I needed to make a move. I walked past him steadily but not too quickly, and started heading across the field to the stile.

I hoped he would let me go and trot back to his shed, but he didn’t. He followed me, and I could feel the weight of his head on the rucksack I was wearing as he nibbled at it. I slipped it off one shoulder and swung it round so that I could hold it in my arms as I continued to head for the stile.

Still he didn’t leave me. As I walked, his nose was against my back. At this point Jenny decided she’d better do something, and she gave him her bucket of blackberries. That kept him occupied for a few minutes which gave us both time to get over the stile to safety. I was so relieved to reach the lane.

Thank you Jenny for giving up your blackeberry pie to save me from a very scary situation.

Home grown salad

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Home grown salad

Last year, I grew some runner beans. I enjoyed watching them grow, and I loved being able to walk down to the bottom of the garden, pick them, cook them and eat them straight away with all their freshness and flavour intact.

This year, I decided I’d expand my vegetable garden. I’m growing runner beans again, but I’m also trying courgettes, beetroot, lettuce, parsley and coriander. I already had mint and sage.

This salad is made from a couple of beetroot leaves and a few lettuce leaves cut from the growing lettuce. I’ve added some chunks of cheese, some sunflower seeds, and half an orange pepper.

It was lovely – fresh and tasty, and it was so nice that I had prepared it from leaves I had just picked in the garden.

I think I’m going to enjoy growing vegetables!

Half a cup of coffee

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

At most social occasions or meetings a cup of tea or coffee is offered. I like my tea quite strong with not much milk, so I’m quite wary of tea that someone else has made, because most people don’t drink it like that, and so they don’t make it like that. I just can’t drink weak milky tea. To me, it’s revolting! So I usually choose coffee. Although it’s often made with cheap, poor quality instant coffee, and doesn’t taste very nice, I find it easier to drink poor coffee than poor tea.

I’ve recently started asking for half a mug because I need something because I’m thirsty, but I don’t need a whole mugful, especially when it isn’t very nice. I thought it would be a good idea. It would cool down quickly enough for me to be able to drink it, and it wouldn’t be wasteful. It should have been a good idea, but it wasn’t.

I’ve found that everyone that I’ve asked for half a mug of coffee has carefully measured out half a spoonful of instant coffee granules, and then filled up the mug with hot water hardly leaving any room for milk. I’ll be saying ‘that’s enough thank you’, and they keep on filling it up. So now instead of having a strong mug of indifferent flavoured coffee that’s drinkable, I have an extemely weak coffee that’s horrible. I wonder what part of half a mugful people don’t understand?

Today I thought I’d got it under control. I’d been chatting, and was late getting my drink. It was being cleared away, but I was told I could help myself. Great! I can make a proper half mugful that’s strong enough to make it drinkable. I put in the coffee, and started pouring in the hot water from one of those flask jugs that you push down at the top. A young girl had been helping with the coffee, and she came over and started to help me push down the button.

I’d rather have done it myself, but I thought I might as well let her do it. When it was half full, I said ‘that’s enough, thanks’, but she carried on. I said several more time that I’d got enough, but still she carried on pressing the button until the mug was filled to the top, hardly leaving any room for milk. Oh dear! I suppose I could have put some more coffee in, but I didn’t want a whole mugful. So I just had a couple of sips, and then threw the rest down the sink.

I’ll have to try choosing a cup instead of a mug. That might solve the problem.

A slice of porridge

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I often have a bowl of porridge for breakfast. It’s quick and easy to cook in the microwave, it’s good for me and it’s warming and comforting to eat especially when the weather is cold like it has been this winter.

This morning, I didn’t have a lot of milk so I used a bit less than usual, but I knew that would be alright if I didn’t leave it too long before eating it. I also decided to use a different bowl from the one I usually use. It’s wider and shallower.

I gave it it’s usual 2 minutes in the microwave, and left it for a couple of minutes before it would be ready and cool enough to eat.

Then the phone rang. It was my friend Annie phoning to discuss the cardmaking workshop we were running in the afternoon. Amidst thoughts of designs and papers and what equipment we needed, all thoughts of porridge went out of my head.

By the time we had sorted everything out, I must have been on the phone for quite a while. When I got back to the microwave and opened the door, a flat, solid circle of rubbery porridge greeted me. Oh dear! I hate porridge like that, but I needed some breakfast, couldn’t spare any more milk and so I told myself I had to eat it!

I had the bright idea of mashing up a banana to mix in with it to make it more moist and soft. It was a good idea, but completely unsuccessful! That porridge was so solid and rubbery that nothing could have been mixed in with it. So I ended up cutting each spoonful of porridge and adding some mashed banana to it. I managed to eat it, but I can’t say I enjoyed it!

So what did I learn? That the wide shallow dish probably isn’t a good idea for porridge. Using less milk than usual is only ok if I eat it quickly after cooking it, and if the phone rings as it’s cooking, I should answer it on the cordless phone and eat it while I’m talking!

Oh well, they say it’s good to learn something new everyday, and that’s quite a few things I’ve learnt today!

Cadbury’s Mini Eggs

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Cadbury's Mini Eggs

Since I heard that Cadbury has been bought out by Kraft, I’ve been going round the shops trying to take photos of all the different varieties of chocolate that they make, but it’s proved impossible.

The iconic Cadbury purple packaging is very difficult to take in artificial light. It comes out blue, which doesn’t look right at all! So I’ve given that up, but I love Cadbury’s Mini Eggs. I bought myself some for Easter so that I could record them for posterity, because you never know what might happen. I think Kraft would very foolish to get rid of popular lines like this, which is presumably what they paid for, but you never know.

Didn’t Mini Eggs used to be shiny? They’re sort of dull and unpleasantly dusty now. Does anyone know what’s happened to them and why? They’ve also changed from pretty pastel colours to dull, muddy colours.

I was so disappointed when I opened the pack and poured them out. There they were in a heap of dirty dullness. No pretty blues, and only a dirty, dusky pink. They were very unphotogenic and unappetising looking. So maybe I didn’t need to worry about Kraft spoiling Mini Eggs. Cadbury seems to have done it already themselves!

Still, I had to make the best of it, and so that they would make a more colourful photo, I put them in some of those colourful silicone cake cases.

Happy Easter everyone!